Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


danger began to threaten, Up to this time the Israelites had
been an agricultural people; but following the example of
Solomon and his successors, many of them exchanged fanning
for commerce. Towns grew up, and luxury with its attendant
vices increased. With the passing of the old customs, the people
were inclined to assimilate the manners and religion of the
nations with which their trade brought them into relation, and it
seemed as if the cult of Jehovah which had bound them together
in early times was destined to lose its hold on the nation. But
the situation was saved by a great movement of religious revival
under the leadership of the prophets. There had always been
prophets in Israel, diviners and soothsayers who professed to
reveal the mind of Jehovah in matters of doubt. But in this new
age the prophets found a higher vocation than divining and
soothsaying and took upon themselves the task of declaring to
the people what seemed to them the mind of Jehovah on political
and social affairs. What gave them their power was a new con-
ception of Jehovah as a God different from all other gods in
moral character, a God who was more than a national God
because He regulated His dealings with His people on ethical

As a result of this combination of nationalism and prophecy
there appeared now for the first time a delmite interest in educa-
tion as a necessity for the national well-being. Apart from the
insistence on teaching the children about the great deeds of the
past that appears in various passages in the liexateuch written
about this time under the prophetic influence (for example,
Exodus xii, 26 ; Joshua iv, 6, 7), there are indications of a spread
of education among the people. It is worthy of note that the
earlier of the great prophets, Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, wrote
nothing at all, either because they could not write, or because
the people could not read. The first writing prophet was
Amos, who wrote about 750 Be., and he, like Micah, was a man
of the people; so that evidently the means of education were
within general reach by that time. This is borne out by two
or three incidental references to children learning to write,
which occur in the prophecies of Isaiah a generation after

We can form the clearest notion of the educational views of the
prophetic party from Deuteronomy, which was written sometime